Man accused of killing 4 in West Chester says he has no money for defense

Credit: DaytonDailyNews

Gurpreet Singh appears in court with interpreter

Credit: DaytonDailyNews

A man accused of killing four family members in a West Chester Twp. apartment in 2019 says he has run out of money for his defense and is asking the court to declare him indigent.

Gurpreet Singh, 39, is charged with four counts of aggravated murder for the April 28, 2019, homicides. With specifications of using a firearm and killing two or more persons, Singh faces the death penalty, if convicted.

The truck driver and father of two is accused of killing his wife, Shalinderjit Kaur, 39; his in-laws, Hakikat Singh Pannag, 59, and Parmjit Kaur, 62; and his aunt by marriage, Amarjit Kaur, 58, at their residence on Wyndtree Drive. All died of gunshot wounds.

Singh retained the defense team of Charles H. and Charles M. Rittgers and associates to represent him prior to his arrest in August 2019. Questions of Singh’s ability to understand English raised by the defense resulted in the court proceedings starting over in early 2020. The pandemic and continued coronavirus concern’s in Singh’s native country of India again continued the trial pushing it to October 2022.

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In a motion filed last week, the defense team requested a hearing to determine if Singh qualifies as a indigent defendant, which would qualify him for a public money, if approved by the judge, for a defense.

In an affidavit, Singh said he was previously employed as a truck driver but can no longer do his job do to his incarceration without bond for two years.

“Due to my unemployment status, I do not have the financial means to pay for any mitigation investigation, fact investigation, expert witnesses, evaluations of other trial or mitigation phase related services or witnessed,” Singh said in the affidavit. “Additionally, I no longer have financial savings to pay for said evaluations.”

Charles H. Rittgers said the request for public funds does not pertain to attorney fees, but for investigation and experts only.

“Our attorneys fees have nothing to do with this filing,” Rittgers said. “It is all related to the additional cost to properly defend him and to properly prepare for a mitigation stage should it be necessary.”

Rittgers said while the defense has to prepare for mitigation, if they should lose the “innocence phase.” He added that part of the money is needed for the ongoing investigation to exonerated Singh.

“In other words, our guy is innocent,” Rittgers said.

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The Butler County Prosecutor’s Office said a number of questions remain unanswered about Singh’s financial status, including “what experts/investigators have already been hired, how much they have already been paid and to what extent the defendant wants taxpayers to issue a blank check.”

According to the defense’s response, prior to his arrest Singh was employed as a owner-operator of a semi-tractor trailer, which are typically valued at $75,000 and $175,000, that he had at least one bank account with a balance of $75,052.31 and owned real estate in Indianapolis valued at $330.180.

In July 2018, Singh gifted a woman $20,000 to assist her in purchasing a house in Indianapolis, according to the prosecution.

“In his motion, the defendant does not explain what happened to any of these considerable assets, nor does he make any averments about his current financial status beyond be incarcerated,” Assistant Prosecutor Jon Marshall said in the motion.

Butler County Common Pleas Judge Greg Howard has scheduled a hearing for Sept. 1 on the indigency motion.

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Gurpreet Singh appears in court with interpreter
Gurpreet Singh appears in court with interpreter

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